Families in Classical and Hellenistic Greece: Representations and Realities
Sarah B. Pomeroy
Publication Date :
1 Jan 1998
With this volume Sarah Pomeroy builds on the groundwork she laid in Xenophon Oeconomicus: A Social and Historical Commentary (Oxford, 1994) and provides the first comprehensive study of the Greek family. Knowledge of the family and kin groups is fundamental to understanding the development of the political and legal framework of the polis, a community of oikoi ('families' or 'households') rather than of individual citizens. Pomeroy offers a highly original and authoritative account of the Greek family as a productive and reproductive social unit in Athens and elsewhere during the classical and Hellenistic periods, taking account of a mass of literary, inscriptional, archaeological, anthropological, and art-historical evidence. Despite the unflagging scholarly interest in the development of the polis, until recently little attention has been paid to the history and structure of its smallest constituent, the oikos. Pomeroy seeks to show that the Greek oikos had several versions: a pseudo-kin group restricted to male citizens; a mixed family group oriented toward the public, in which men predominated; and a family group of a more private nature that accommodated women to a greater extent, though without necessarily excluding men. Public legislation and private custom concurred to perpetuate the oikoi, expecting it to endure longer than the lifespan of any individual member and to bear economic and social burdens imposed by the state.